How to improve cycling fitness?
Improve Cycling, Now that we have established a baseline, the question remains: how do you improve your cycling fitness? As highlighted in my blog on ‘training zones’, there are two ways of doing this.
One is to train at lower intensities, either by using higher gears (lower cadences) or by going for longer rides.
The other is to train at higher intensity, either by spinning faster with smaller gears or by doing shorter, more intense workouts. I like to combine these two methods because they complement each other extremely well.
What cycling fitness is all about?
Improve Cycling fitness is all about the ability to maintain a high percentage of your maximal aerobic power for an extended period of time.
That’s why I like to focus on longer rides (2h-3h) at a lower intensity, either by using bigger gears or going for flat terrain.
This builds a strong foundation that allows you to push harder during shorter and more intense workouts, which in turn helps improve performance even further.
To illustrate this point: if you look at the ‘Performance Management Chart’, it is clear that long tempo rides do not produce physiological gains as quickly as short and very intense training sessions. Hence, we need a combination of both methods if we want to maximize our cycling fitness
How to improve cycling speed and endurance?
Cyclists who want to improve cycling speed and endurance have a few options. Improving cardiovascular fitness is desirable, but it’s only one part of the overall picture.
A cyclist can also choose to focus on resistance training for strength development and flexibility training to increase comfort when riding in an aerodynamic position. Or they could do all three.
The amount of time spent in various zones during interval training depends on what kind of event the cyclist is preparing for:
A 10%-time range over 5 hours means that the person should spend 6 minutes per hour in zone 4 (slightly above lactate threshold), 11 minutes per hour in zone 3 (threshold), and 58 minutes per hour in 2 (tempo pace).
The rest of the time should be spent in zone 1 (warm-up) and zone 2 (cooldown).
If a cyclist is working on improving endurance, they might want to spend more time in zones 1 and 2 when doing interval training.
Zone 4 is often used during indoor track interval sessions because it allows riders to work at a higher power output for longer than if they went all-out from the start.
A study conducted by researchers at Maastricht University found that well-trained cyclists could better maintain their pace while riding at lactate threshold indoors on an ergometer or outdoors on a track compared to intervals done below and above the critical power.
Exercise to improve cycling power:
Cyclists have a tradition of performing exercises to increase cycling power. After all, it is common sense that being physically stronger should improve (cyclo-) performance. However, could they actually be wasting their time?
Apparently not, based on the results of one of our latest studies, In this study, we showed that a specific training regimen for cyclists’ leg muscles does indeed lead to an increase in strength and improve Cycling power.
The increases were significant; however, the effects on other parameters such as endurance or maximum velocity were limited.
The findings support the idea that developing maximal force-generating capacities plays an important role in improving cycling performances.
A look at the scientific literature shows that there are very few studies on this topic, so more research is needed.
More and more cyclists focus on their (cycling) power output. Not only do they seek an increase in performance; some athletes also want to improve their chances of catching up with competitors at the top end of racing events like the Tour de France or world championships.
According to scientists at Maastricht University, cyclists can be trained to develop greater force for a limited time by performing leg strength exercises such as squats.
In this study, published recently in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, it was shown that these exercises boosted maximal cycling power significantly after four weeks of training. Whether this improvement would remain over longer periods remains unknown.
Cycling technique for beginners:
here are the techniques for the beginner.
there are some mistakes that many beginners make, which could be avoided with better planning and technique.
Unfortunately, these mistakes can give a bad cyclist image and discourage further cycling. However, they are easy to avoid if you get some good advice on technique as well as training from day one.
1- The drive phase: pedal revolution and push down
The correct pedaling technique is to go through a full pedal revolution (figure 1). Therefore, you should not stop your foot at the top of the stroke or use an excessive number of strokes per minute – this will cause tension in your leg muscles instead of energy transfer to the…
2- Seat position
A too high seat position will limit the contribution of your gluteal muscles. A low seat position will mean you end up pushing the pedals with your knees, wasting effort, and wearing out your joints.
You may be lucky enough to get away with a poor technique when you’re just starting out, but as soon as you start riding longer distances or more strenuously, discomfort and injury are likely to follow.
3- Your upper body
Your back should ideally be in a neutral position – neither excessively arched nor rounded (figure 2). This means that if you bend over and look at yourself in a mirror while cycling, your lower back should be flat against the seat between each pedal stroke rather than arching forward or coming off the seat. Your head should be up and looking forward, not down at the road like a cyclist in Tour de France.
4- Hand position
As you can see in figure 4, your arms should be bent with your hands in front of the brake hoods, slightly below hip level (lower than shown here), and pointing forwards.
This increases power transfer to the pedals; whereas if you were to pull back on the brakes or hold your arms too straight, you would lose some of this power.
5- The drive phase: push down
It is important to remember that when pushing down, you should keep your upper body still. If it moves with each stroke – even just rocking gently from side to side – it will require energy.
When coasting, try to keep your upper body still. If you are leaning on the handlebars for support, this is fine – remember that as soon as you start pushing down again, your upper body should go back into its correct position. If you’re not using the handlebar…
7- Steering technique
On a fast descent, it can be tempting to lean over quite far while cornering. However, if you do this with poor technique then there’s a high chance, you’ll get thrown off balance and end up in a heap on the road!
Instead of leaning over too much, pull the handlebars in towards your body; this will tighten your cornering radius (figure 6). Also, it is useful to look through the corners of the road as you are riding along with them.
As a general rule of thumb, if you are looking over your shoulder before a descent then that’s a sign that you need to straighten up and improve your technique.